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What is Diwali, the festival of lights, and how will it be celebrated amid coronavirus?

Deepavali or Diwali is commonly known as the festival of lights. It is one of the most admired festivals celebrated across secular India. Apart from Hindus, Diwali is one of the core festivals of Jains, Buddhists, and Newar Buddhists. The auspicious occasion is observed for five days during the pleasant autumn season. According to the Hindu lunisolar calendar, it is celebrated in Kartika. Diwali or the festival of lights spreads a positive spiritual aura. It symbolizes the 'victory of good over bad' or 'enlightenment over ignorance' – especially 'brightness over darkness.'

On the one hand, Diwali is celebrated by worshipping different kinds of Goddesses and Gods varying as per the regional customs. Usually, Hindus worship Lakshmi or the Goddess of prosperity. On the other hand, in some regions of India, people worship God or Goddesses like Durga, Yama, Rama, Vishnu, Krishna, Vishwakarma, Dhanvantari, Kubera, Ganesha, and so forth. Although the festival of lights is celebrated for five days, a specific day is given more importance than the rest. On this major day, people living in different parts of India decorate their homes and shops with brass diya and brass oil lamps.

These are how the celebrations are done through these five days linked to Diwali are commemorated.

  • Dhanteras or Day 1

The term 'Dhanteras' is an indication of wealth and prosperity. On this auspicious day, Hindus commence their celebration by cleaning their homes and business premises. Diwali decoration is incomplete without adorning the entire house with Diwali lights, chandeliers, diyas, flowers, garlands, etc. Especially, they wind up their day by praying to the lord for their health and wealth for the long term. As it is the first day of Deepavali, all families start by decorating their houses with rangoli and elegant lights. Besides, they prepare besan ka ladoo or many homemade sweets.

  • Naraka Chaturdashi or Day 2

Naraka Chaturdashi is referred to as Chotti Diwali, which is observed as the 2nd day of Diwali. The day is earmarked for its spiritual auspicious. On this day, people leverage ways that are helpful in the liberation of souls from the pains of hell or past life karma. On the other hand, some individuals offer prayers to divine and peaceful deceased souls to welcome them on earth. On this occasion, people lit diyas while praying that the souls of their deceased ancestors could discover light and peace during their afterlife. In some regions of India, Hindus buy special festive foods like stuffed delicacies such as maladu, susiyam, pottukadalai, sweets, and more.

  • Lakshmi Puja and Kali puja or day 3

Lakshmi puja is one of the most important days as per the Hindu calendar or Hindu mythological tales. Hindus worldwide worship Lakshmi, Ganesh, and Kubera, while praying for their good health, overall wellbeing, and expansion of wealth. People worship the lotus feet of Lakshmi and offer her different kinds of delicacies and sweets. Besides, they light up ghee or oil diyas and ensure to eradicate darkness from every nook and corner of their home's or business's premises. Often, people offer marigolds and garlands made from colorful colors. Goddess Lakshmi's holy aura is welcomed within all Hindu homes with colorful rangolis made on their doorstep. Devotees sing aartis and bhajan accompanied by the sound of tinkering bells. After the puja is over, Hindus wrap up the festival by preparing delicacies. Some communities in the North prepare yam curry as one of the major dishes. Apart from that, children and teenagers burn fireworks while Hindus light up Diwali diya lights. People prefer to get dressed in their new outfits. On the other hand, Bengali communities worship kali or the Goddess of war. In the Bengali community, Kali symbolizes strength and immense power necessary for ensuring women's safety. As per the faith of Bengali Hindus, worshipping Kali can equip society with the power required for fighting evil.

  • Annakut, Govardhan Puja or Day 4

Annakut symbolizes a 'mountain of grains or foods.' On this occasion, Hindus prepare different varieties of foods with the use of specific ingredients. These foods and dishes are offered to Lord Krishna, and eventually, many delicacies are distributed amidst the community. In different regions of Gujarat, the festival of Diwali is commemorated as the beginning of a new year. So, Gujaratis buy new commodities, which are referred to as sabras.

On the other hand, several Hindus from the north, central, and western regions celebrate this festival as Govardhan Puja and worship Lord Krishna. According to Hindu mythology, God Krishna successfully saved the cowherd and farmers' community from rain and flood by lifting the Govardhan parvat. On account of this, this 4th day is celebrated by all Hindus as Govardhan Puja or Annakut.

  • Bhai Duj or Day 5

Bhai Duj, or brother's day, celebrates the pure and true bond between brothers and sisters. On Diwali's fifth day, Hindus commemorate the relationship and pure friendship shared by a brother and sister. Its spirit is similar to Raksha Bandhan. On Bhai duj, sisters worship and pray to the almighty for their brothers' wealth, long life, and health. Next, the sisters put 'tikka or tilak' on the forehead of their brothers. The tikka works as a shield against evil and harm.

Impact of coronavirus pandemic on the celebration of Diwali

Owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, people across India face major issues, especially when it comes to visiting pandals, temples, eating blessed food, or enjoying swings in melas. However, even though covid-19 cases are not as high as last year, the Indian Government has levied social distancing, lockdown, or sanitizers and masks to control the crowd during festivals. People will no longer be able to hop temples, pay a visit to pandals, enjoy musical performances amongst loud crowds, or indulge in street foods. These things are the opposite of hygiene maintenance or maintaining social distance. Due to this pandemic, the Indian Government has implied restrictions on street food sellers or crowds in the pandal.

Despite these restrictions, Hindus can commemorate Diwali by decorating their homes with Diwali diya lights, brass oil lamps, and flowers. Besides, they can share homemade foods along with peace and happiness.

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